Isometrics revisited

in the 60’s to 70’s  you would have been hard pressed to ignore the isometrics movement. Vic O’beck published “How to Exercise without moving a muscle” in 1964 and it became very popular.

During the late 60’s early 70’s the Daily Express ran a regular cartoon in its pages which popularised the exercise regime. The cartoons were eventually bundled into a book Isometrics. How to exercise without moving a muscle, in strip cartoons from the Daily Express.

Like many fitness fades, the interest faded from main stream use, due in part to silly claims. A regime that promises to get you fit and trim in 90 seconds a day is bound to sell you the book or course, but fail to deliver much , if any, fitness.

This is a shame, as given the right objectives, the static hold has a really useful role to play. According to James Hewitt who wrote Isometrics for you: Get fit and trim in 90 seconds a day in 1966  “without special apparatus and without moving a muscle you can grow stronger and build, or reshape your body to nearer your hearts’ desire. The static  contraction has been part of physical culture systems  for a very long time. Hatha yoga contains postures  held without movement”.

Put simply, isometrics are a system of physical exercises in which muscles are caused to act against each other or against a fixed object. It’s a form of exercise involving the static contraction of a muscle without any visible movement in the angle of the joint.

The popular regimes focused on basic body building type exercises and suggested a 6  second static contraction  with a maximum, or comfortable maximum contraction. This bicep curl picture gives you a good idea.


Whilst this had some value, the use of the extended static hold in functional fitness is probably in developing the capacity to simply hold postures which contribute to actual exercises. The reality is that if you want to kick up to a rock solid free standing handstand, or do 20 plus pull ups, you better be able to hold a static ( albeit “leaning” ) handstand against the wall, and hang for 60, 90, 120, 180 seconds. Extra grip strength is always useful!

Btw you could find yourself struggling at 10 seconds when you start. Just do what you can and build up

So think about your regime and hunt out obvious postures to practice: the side planks, lunging pushes against a wall and deadlift holds spring to mind. Adding the L sit, a horse stance ( the old martial arts favourite) and a “hip up” hold can , when combined,  make a really useful home exercise regime.

No more, “I cannot get to the gym”!!

Home pull up bar and gymnastic rings

When working through my home training courses, the chances are you will need a pull up bar. Many landlords won’t let you screw them into a wall, so get one that slides in and out of a door way. I’ve liked the JML one because, like me, its been around for ages,

JML Awesome Gym Door Frame Workout/Pull-Up Bar Home Gym for Upper Body Exercises

but there are lots of cheaper ones around too

I have to say that I own my own home so, Ive screwed mine into the wall.

Once you have a pull up bar, you can get a set of gymnastic rings. I started importing them in 2005 in tiny batches, and I think they cost £50 plus.

Today £20 gets you a nice wooden pair. Here is a good example, opt for wood if you can.

Sundried Wooden Gymnastic Rings with Straps Exercise Gym Rings Crossfit Gymnastics Athletic Dip Rings

If you want to start using your Gymnastic rings, anf you can afford  99p  ( or £1 less 1p) you can get a copy of my old ring training guide, thats rudely been scored as a 1 star!! Try and be more generous

Ring Training: Using gymnastic rings in the fitness Environment

Body fat calculator

Knowing your fat percentage is one of the best fitness tests you can do.

The best way to assess your body fat percentage is to get me to whip out my fat calipers.

However, for those of you who don’t fancy that experience, I quite like the zone body fat calculator.

Get a tape measure with inches and fill-out this interesting online calculator

Click here

A sort of a sit up test

Coming from a functional fitness back ground, the  sit up procedure suggested by Goulding is a bit of a shocker!!

Lie on the floor  with your knees bent at approximately right angles, with feet flat on the ground. Your hands should be resting on your thighs. Just slide your hands along your thighs to touch the top of your knees, then back to the starting position (don’t tug or strain your neck)

Do it for 1 minute

Allow the table below to Judge you!

1 Minute Sit Up Test (Men)

Age 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65+
Excellent >49 >45 >41 >35 >31 >28
Good 44-49 40-45 35-41 29-35 25-31 22-28
Above average 39-43 35-39 30-34 25-28 21-24 19-21
Average 35-38 31-34 27-29 22-24 17-20 15-18
Below Average 31-34 29-30 23-26 18-21 13-16 11-14
Poor 25-30 22-28 17-22 13-17 9-12 7-10
Very Poor <25 <22 <17 <13 <9 <7

1 Minute Sit Up Test (Women)

Age 18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65+
Excellent >43 >39 >33 >27 >24 >23
Good 37-43 33-39 27-33 22-27 18-24 17-23
Above average 33-36 29-32 23-26 18-21 13-17 14-16
Average 29-32 25-28 19-22 14-17 10-12 11-13
Below Average 25-28 21-24 15-18 10-13 7-9 5-10
Poor 18-24 13-20 7-14 5-9 3-6 2-4
Very Poor <18 <13 <7 <5 <2

Source: adapted from Golding, et al. (1986). The Y’s way to physical fitness (3rd ed.)

Push up test

The old favourite push up test. Loved by some hated by many. This is supposed to be the amount of push ups you can do before exhaustion. Surprisingly this is not chest to floor, but elbows to 90 degree.

Allegedly, those with weaker upper body strength, can drop their knees to the floor and test from there

Table: Push Up Test norms for MEN

Age 17-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-65
Excellent > 56 > 47 > 41 > 34 > 31 > 30
Good 47-56 39-47 34-41 28-34 25-31 24-30
Above average 35-46 30-39 25-33 21-28 18-24 17-23
Average 19-34 17-29 13-24 11-20 9-17 6-16
Below average 11-18 10-16 8-12 6-10 5-8 3-5
Poor 4-10 4-9 2-7 1-5 1-4 1-2
Very Poor < 4 < 4 < 2 0 0 0

Table: Push Up Test norms for WOMEN

Age 17-19 20-29 30-39 40-49 50-59 60-65
Excellent > 35 > 36 > 37 > 31 > 25 > 23
Good 27-35 30-36 30-37 25-31 21-25 19-23
Above Average 21-27 23-29 22-30 18-24 15-20 13-18
Average 11-20 12-22 10-21 8-17 7-14 5-12
Below average 6-10 7-11 5-9 4-7 3-6 2-4
Poor 2-5 2-6 1-4 1-3 1-2 1
Very Poor 0-1 0-1 0 0 0 0

* Source: adapted from Golding, et al. (1986). The Y’s way to physical fitness (3rd ed.)